June 2, 2010 Edition

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Authority hears from
Industrial prospects

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Representatives from Universal Asset Management and Integrated Renewable Resources, LLC, addressed the members of the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority at their regular meeting on Thursday.

Both companies are hoping to partner with the Authority, UAM to expand its existing business in Walnut Ridge, and IRR to open a railroad tie mill in the near future.

UAM currently employs 25 people in Walnut Ridge and Randolph County, 12 of which have been hired in the last 45 days, and are looking to increase that number by 15 more by the end of the year. They hope to expand their business and are looking at the property soon to be vacated by Morgan Buildings and Spas near the Walnut Ridge Airport.

"We've got to have more space to 'spread our wings,' so to speak," said Steve Manley, CEO of the company.

The Authority voted to pursue assisting the company with their plans.

Tim Kizer of IRR, LLC, spoke to the membership about his company and the possibility of building a railroad tie mill in the Walnut Ridge/Hoxie area.

Two of the obstacles facing them are access to one or both railroads and a water source from either Walnut Ridge or Hoxie. The property they are currently considering for their mill is served by both towns, and the company needs its water to be supplied from one town or the other.

"Access to the railroads is vital, and railroads can be very difficult to deal with," Kizer said. "We are looking at an $80 million project over the next three years and 125 jobs to be filled. Multiple modes of transportation are critically important to us."

Kizer said their employees' salaries average $39,000 a year.

"Our company won't qualify for many grants, but the Intermodal Authority will," he added.

The members voted to use grant funds received for topographic and boundary surveys for three industrial sites to assist with the project. They decided to survey two sites and use the amount for the third site to assist in getting the Hoxie/Walnut Ridge plant going.

The Authority formed a committee to hire a legal firm with the expertise to meet the specific needs of the authority. They also agreed to make a one-time yearly payment to the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce for allowing the Authority to make phone calls, do their paper work and complete other business from their office. The Authority has no office space of its own, which is a cost-saver to the members.

The group's next meeting will be held in Corning in June.

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